Journal Entry: Heavy Metal & My Search for Being & Self
Life & Thought Reframed Through Art
“A mind that is stretched to a new idea never returns to its original dimension.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
Modern Metal Green #1
The Experience of Art
Both Window & Mirror
This Journal Entry: Heavy Metal is a documentation of my lifelong exploration of creativity and artmaking. As such, it is a post that seeks to make manifest both a process and a philosophy. This essay is a step in finding some structure and form in that quest.
I have written this essay primarily for myself. It is, simply put, thinking on paper. My artwork is the hinge from which it swings but, in and of itself, this essay is also about self-discovery.
Survival can be hard for the artist unaware of the power of money. Materials need purchased and the lights need electricity. Art is a crash course on the stress lines between inner expression and hard economic truths.
All things in life are a matter of context. Reframing what we know to be true, can lead to acceptance. Perspective is something more than a line drawing. I am not advocating blind acquiescence at looking at the real. Despite the forces of money and power, art remains a realm of concept and process.
Both inner and outer experiences are revealed in an artist’s work. Public response adds another level of complexity. As an artist I am able to engage with these forces.
A Common Language
We speak a common language through art. But, all meanings are not universal. At times nuances lie beyond immediate, conscious perception. Comprehension sometimes requires a knowledge of others, and a little contemplation on our part.
As a visual platform, art invites us to look inside ourselves. It provides both a meeting place and an opportunity to open our hearts and minds, to the lives of others.
Art cradles within its depths, elements of creative thinking, life encounters and process. Art is a visual language. It requires a shared, root tongue for both the (artist) speaker and art listener (viewer).
Understanding sometimes requires a bit of unraveling. An untangling of self from object, of viewer from creator, of thought from process. It requires an appreciate of each. As rich as any biomass, art is a complex tapestry.
All human societies have cultural symbols. They can be both subtle and complex. Constructed of image and shaped by word, they are reflective of ashared humanity. Symbols cross boundaries and serve as a reflective surface and two-way mirror. A deep pool, cyphers are a place where the shallow gives way to the deep.
Art is woven from the fibers of many textures, colors, shapes and feelings. Like thread, each adds to a completion of the whole. There are many elements to consider in the making of art. Rooted in the ecosphere art reaches toward the noosphere.
My Art, My Life
This is Where it Begins
I cannot be everything to everybody. Not as an artist nor as a human being. My work as an artist cannot answer every individual’s call. I cannot be creatively true to myself and to everyone or everything else.
Ti Plant Protection
The understanding of self is sometimes difficult. Exploring my interior world while standing in awe of the world around me is, at times, a bit overwhelming. Given my interconnected nature with all around me, I do not think it could be otherwise.
Arguably, our efforts at pushing up against boundaries have left the world, and our history littered with carnage. We have dug deep into the earth and those forces we barely comprehend. To continue doing so may jeopardize the future of all lifeforms.
A reframing of our understanding of who, and what we are could successfully move us from this point into a survivable future.
[..] Not some minor tweak in worldview, our entire education system in all disciplines, the construction of our language, and our socially accepted ‘givens’ – those starting points in conversations – revolve around a bottom-line mindset that assumes a separate universe ‘out there’ into which we have each individually arrived on a temporary basis. It is further assumed that we accurately perceive this external preexisting reality and play little or no role in its appearance.”– Robert Lanza, M.D with Bob Berman: Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness Are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe
Reframing Art …
Through the Lens of Culture & Science
This Journal Entry: Heavy Metal is an abstract exploration of the world in which I exist. Heavy Metal, both as an element and as music, are inextricable elements in the environment.
All tools of the trade, this journal entry encompasses by necessity, the techniques and materials of acrylic, pointillism, oils, coldwax, mixed media and decorative finish materials.
Broadly Green-Banded Swallowtail
Materials are certainly a major component in art making. Over the centuries, art materials have been made using heavy metals mined from the earth. Prior to modern times, artists had little choice in the using of various toxic ores while creating their work.
We know there is more to art than materials. For instance, I am aware of the various cultural lenses I wear. It is of great interest to me as an artist, to understand how my life and art have been impacted by disparate forces.
“Like any other institution or subsystem of society, science and scientific research have also become a location and subject of artistic reflection…due to this circumstance art has recently begun to include the word ‘research’ in its vocabulary and has introduced the term ‘artistic research’. The term shifts the focus to the linkage of art with other spheres of knowledge, theory, the discourses of art and its function; the performative element of contemporary art, the artist as subject are foregrounded and the artwork or art object in its exhibition context are neglected.”-Ingeborg Reichle: Art in the Age of Technoscience: Nature (Documents of Contemporary Art): Editor: Jeffrey Kastner
“A path comes into existence only when you observe it.” – Werner Heisenberg
Spheres of Influence
Deep Time: Geologically Speaking
Homo sapiens – the New Kid on the Block
Geologically speaking, Homo sapiens is a relatively short-lived species. In the grand scheme of life, we haven’t been around all that long and our lives are short. As a species we’ve made leaps and bounds. Our grasp towards immortality has led to lifespans increased from those of only a century ago.
The tale of a ‘Methuselah,’ however, is one that survives only in story and not in fact. Immortality exists in the shadow of vanity and ignorance.
“The immense reaches of the new geological time scale were essential to his (Charles Darwin’s) theory, providing the time necessary for what he believed to be the very slow process of evolution by natural selection. In ‘Origin’, Darwin wrote…’He who…does not admit how incomprehensibly vast have been the past periods of time, may at once close this volume.”Rebecca Bedell: Endless Forms: Charles Darwin, Natural Science, and the Visual Arts
There are many species on this planet that count their years of life in the hundreds, if not in the thousands. There are species of trees and fungi that live far beyond the years we count.
And yet, when we broaden our sense of time to include the geological, even these long lived forms of life seem short lived. To contextualize this, the term ‘deep time’ must be invoked.
“Numbers do not seem to work well with regard to deep time. Any number above a couple of thousand years – fifty thousand, fifty million – will with nearly equal effect awe the imagination to the point of paralysis.”– John McPhee: Annals of the Former World
The Earth’s Heavy Metal
For a ‘metal’ to be ‘heavy’, its density must be at least five times heavier than that of water. It must also have a high atomic weight. Some are trace elements, found throughout the Earth’s crust.
“Silver of the pass. Iron of the bay and its clouds, rare gold of the sky. Zinc of the storm in its full fury. Bronze and copper of the sea to the south as I escape.”– Robert MacFarlane: Underland
The world can be perceived in many ways and from different directions. To find what lies below the the earth’s surface, to find what lies below my surface, requires a penetrating search conducted both within, and without.
Some metals are considered essential. As such, they are required for various physiological and biochemical functions. A lack of these micro-nutrients can result in syndromes and diseases of deficiency.
The ground beneath our feet is a rich, world of wonders. In this Journal Entry: Heavy Metal, I scratch at a small patch of bare rock. I marvel at what I do perceive.
We stand upon an abundant biomass of soil filled with water, gases, organic solids and minerals. All held together by the secretions of numerous bacteria. What is it that holds me together? What glue binds me?
The ground beneath our feet is a living world where roots, microbes and mycelium exist in symbiosis with members of the animal kingdom. The ground beneath our feet is a source of heavy metals.
In art, it all comes back to self and creative vision. How do I procede with this knowing? How am I, In turn its manifestation?
As Above So Below
Toxin & Treasure
Ions & Creative Metabolization
When I look at a Periodic Table, there are many unfamiliar chemical compositions. In contrast, others stand out for clear reason. They are heavily mined, used in domestic and medical applications, as well as in agricultural and industry.
As a result of human activity, heavy metals are widely dispersed in the environment. Many pose toxic risks for most lifeforms.
There has been a rapid rise in the obtaining and use of these ions. Global contamination has become an ever-greater concern. Risk of human exposure has become increasingly high and lilkely.
The toxicity posed by heavy metals is dependent on many factors. These include the health, age and gender of those exposed. Chemical species and exposure type play a role.
“We know that within the cells of all living organisms many hundreds, even thousands of chemical reactions are being carried out simultaneously. These reactions build up the molecules of life, which form the components and structures of cells. They also break molecules down, to recycle cellular components and to release energy. Together, the vast array of chemical reactions occurring in living organisms is called metabolism. It is the basis of everything living things do; maintenance, growth, organizational and reproduction, and the source of all the energy to fuel these processes. Metabolism is the chemistry of life.”– Paul Nurse: What is Life
Metal ions can interact with DNA and cells leading to cellular damage and potential carcinogenic effects.
From the Broken Earth Comes Beauty
Heavy metals are coveted. It is an irony, that among the poisons are counted some of the most prized of all metals; gold, silver, nickel and platinum.
In pencil, in paint, in the name of rock & roll, in the pursuit of wealth, power and beauty heavy metals permeate our lives. They exist in alliance with the rise and fall of the mighty.
Tool & Toxin
Every artist has a relationship with the pencil. I can’t imagine omitting it in this Journal Entry: Heavy Metal. In grade school it was the lead pencil that first awakened in me, an awareness of heavy metals. Where this knowledge originated, I don’t know, but a common refrain was, ‘don’t chew pencils.’
Many years later I learned the core of the pencil was never the probelm. Rather it was the exterior coating of yellow paint that contained the lead.
The yellow coating initially used on pencils was outlawed in the late 1970’s. But only after an entire generation of pencil-chewing-children were exposed to the toxin. To this day, that lead ingestion is known to be a contributing factor in some health issues faced by those individuals who are now adults.
In contemplating heavy metal, I find inspiration and self-discovery.
Searching for Meaning
Takes to the Stage
My second exposure to heavy metal was the rock music band ‘Black Sabbath‘. Brooding and melancholic, Sabbath’s music is filled with occult references, the magical and mysterious, political protest and warnings about the dangers of substance abuse.
Black Sabbath was my perfect teenage soundtrack. I was filled with feelings of alienation and anger at the politics of the world and the consequences of social suppression.
I was bullied in school and called a faggot. Apparently, it was an allowed form of social interaction. In highschool, I knew every riff and Sabbath song by heart. I saw reflections of their music in the actions of the people around me.
“Have compassion for everyone you meet for you do not know what wars are going on down there, where the spirit meets the bone.”– Lucinda Williams: Singer/Songwriter
Darkness can contain beauty if it doesn’t swallow you. Teetering at the edge most of my life, I’ve learned to find balance. Hate is nothing new and something I have always had to contend with. It lies hidden in the human soul and deep in the depths of this Journal Entry: Heavy Metal.
Life is a Process
The songs ‘Paranoid’, ‘Iron Man’ and ‘War Pigs’ and its antiwar message, are still some of my favorites. Critical acclaim came hard, and Black Sabbath’s history of heavy drug and alcohol use is reflected in their art. Just when they reached a pinnacle of success, they were nearing their end. Many artists have trodden similar paths.
“The first study of the man who wants to be a poet is the knowledge of himself, complete. A seer is made, not born, and must prepare himself for his vocation ‘by a long, gigantic, and rational disorder of all the senses. All forms of love, suffering and madness; he searches himself’. This is an ‘unspeakable torture when he needs all his faith, all his superhuman strength where he becomes all men: the great patient, the great criminal, the one accursed – and the supreme scholar’.”– Arthur Rimbaud
Looking Without …
Searching the Past
“In tandem with geology’s revelation of ‘deep time’ was its recreation of the world’s past. Through the study of strata and the fossilized remains embedded in them, nineteenth-century geologists reconstructed the previous epochs of the Earth’s history: their topography, flora, fauna, and climate. Such research yielded an image of the Earth that had changed dramatically in the past and was still changing in the present. The processes and rates of change were the subject of furious dispute all through the nineteenth-century.”– Rebecca Bedell: Endless Forms: Charles Darwin, Natural Science, and the Visual Arts
Many histories come to mind as I contemplate the years gravened geologically into the strata of my being. There are no singularities in life or in deep time.
Fossil Fish #1
Beneath our Feet
The Lingering Eons
Layered like the geological strata of the Earth beneath my feet, the music on some of the records from my past finds deeper dimension in adulthood. I can tune an ear to the tragedy that was unfolding in the lives of the band’s members. I can see it in their art and in my life.
Youth is in a hurry. Worried as much by yesterday as tomorrow. It took many years before I met a drug that would kick me to the ground. But, blinded by those old feelings of youthful invincibility, I did not see it coming.
Once Again & Final
The world’s account fills volumes across the sciences. They are writ across the history of art and still the picture remains incomplete. It is always a question of what we know, what we don’t, and what we think we do.
There are many things that might be forever beyond our knowing. As we search and grasp for what we can, there is much to be found chronicled in the Earth’s geology.
“People think in five generations – two ahead, and two behind – with heavy concentration on the one in the middle. Possibly that is tragic, and possibly there is no choice. The human mind may not have evolved enough to be able to comprehend deep time. It may only be able to measure it. At least, that is what geologists wonder … they wonder to what extent it is possible to absorb a set of facts and move with them, in a sensory manner, beyond the recording intellect and into the abyssal eons. Primordial inhibition may stand in the way.
On a geological timescale, a human life is reduced to a brevity that is too inhibiting to think about. Geologists, dealing always with deep time, find it seeps into their beings and affects them in various ways. They see the unbelievable swiftness with which one evolving species of earth has learned to reach into the dirt of some tropical island and fling 747’s into the sky. They see the thin band in which are all but indiscernible stratifications of Cro-Magnon, Moses, Leonardo, and now. Seeing a race unaware of its own instantaneousness in time, they can reel off all the species that have come and gone, with emphasis on those that have specialized themselves to death.”– John McPhee: Annals of the Former World
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